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Semiformalishmaybe

Built on the Ruins of a Playpen

Recently I heard some of the several nice acoustic tracks added to a "deluxe edition" of the most recent CD from a group I like - they're quite nice, being different enough from the normal versions so as to feel like a cover from another band. I'd love to hear a lot more from that "other band".. and I am also frustrated that *ahem* for those who actually pay for CDs, they'd need to buy yet another copy of the CD to get these tracks. Also, having a band's website be their myspace page is really lame - almost inevitably it looks as terrible as most myspace pages do and also has a copious amount of spam in the comment section.

I've been thinking about how philosophers evolve over time, and how by reading the works in chronological order, we can trace the changes in their interests, styles of reasoning, and similar. For those that underwent a major change in beliefs but had substantial works before and after that change, people might easily identify with them only on one side of the change (e.g. when Sartre became Marxist, he underwent a long project to reinterpret both Marxism and Existentialism, and either this focus or the positions no doubt intrigued some and repelled others), although for those who underwent a more gradual set of changes (e.g. Nietzsche or Nozick), it feels a lot more strange I'm sure for those who want idols in whom they read and identify, to try to either pretend that all the writings are part of a single consistent whole (doable in some cases with appropriate gymnastics) or to accept that as philosophers evolved within their lives they changed in ways that led them not to cover all their topics of interest with whatever stage the reader chooses to favour. An education in philosophy might start off like a search for religion, for some people - they might be looking to adopt somebody else's thoughts in order to provide order/meaning for their lives (or some subset, like politics), and a lot of people seem to stop (or maybe I just haven't known them for long enough a span of their life) at the first one that provides that order. I think the ones who got the most out of it are those who feel both the desire and the ability to toy with ideas and innovate. In contrast to those using a "received value system" and/or a system of metaphysics that's given, and accepting that societal consensus in the form of law and custom create effects for those who deviate too far in some realms, becoming philosophically aware provides one with the opportunity to interpret, decide, and create on one's own. I do not think that the equivalent of becoming a mujtahid or a lawyer is necessary to do interesting work, and that juvenile attempts at a philosophy hopefully and often do eventually lead to more depth. In essense, I think focusing on the works of other philosophers to the exclusion of using them to propose and discuss new ideas is backwards-looking and misguided. If one desires, for example, to find a way to "save Nietzsche for Christianity" (as some scholars have attempted to do), perhaps they should instead attempt to find a unique synthesis of the two philosophies (as Sartre did for Existentialism and Marx, freely discarding elements of each, producing new content and reworking existing content into a new whole) - this is, I think, a much more worthy endeavour than performing intellectually dishonest (although sometimes interesting) textual analysis of the most favourable words they can find.

I've also been thinking about the restriction placed, in some flavours of Judaism, on learning about other religions - while I can see how it might make sense from a memetic perspective, that intellectual isolationism bothers me a lot. The first point is very strong though, and could easily hold for other religions - perhaps I would not have had that young opening-of-the-eyes moment that prevented me from ever having religion if I had not had that book about creation myths from all over the world (that included the Adam/Eve myth along with all the others) -- even at age eight or nine, the possibility of comparing the myths and beliefs of different cultures and placing that which my mom believes in as potentially comparable to those of the ancient greeks was an eye opener, a train of thought that at least kept me agnostic until I had a broad enough education in the sciences to understand religion and reject pretty much all religious explanations I had ever been exposed to as unnecessary and inadequate. Perhaps if I had had my eyes closed to these alternatives, I might've ended up nominally religious, and from the perspective of "saving souls" or other perspectives that place salvation or membership as more important than curiosity, introspection, and comparitive evaluation of ideas, that would've been a good thing (this sentence would ordinarily be read as a "spit sentence" by some people with views similar to my own, but it is not meant as one - look for the other obvious reading). if the result is the most important thing, then it makes sense to not prefer actions that can lead to a bad result, even if in an ideal world this risk would not be present - from a christian perspective, for example, one could easily suggest that saving people's souls is more imprtant than allowing an atmosphere in general society that suggests skeptical inquiry. I suppose this idea makes me uncomfortable because skeptical inquiry is strongly suggested by my values.

I semi-recently read on a friend's LJ (I think, but I don't remember for sure) a phrase I like about a broad range of seecular philosophies: "If you want to know what we believe about a broad range of topics, you should look for the broad consensus among first and second year university textbooks." -- it was actually said more elegantly than that and went on a bit further (I will add what it actually said if the source pops into my head anytime soon). It's pretty eloquent, I think, although if we wanted to be really careful we'd add in a number of notes on the distinction between philosophy and science, and comment that for a number of matters religion is concerned about (the sentence was meant as an answer to a question "How can I learn about your broad system of beliefs", presumably from a religious beliver, if I remember correctly), science provides no answer and one would need to go into philosophy (into a *specific* philosophy, not just the study of it as a field mind you) to find answers. While Steven Jay Gould's idea of nonoverlapping magesteria is laughably broken (an adequate understanding of it shows it not to be the comprimise/smoothing between faith and science it was designed to be, for starters), one might productively look at the distinct and mixed roles played by both parts of one's Weltanschauung when people have a Philosophy/Science or Religion/Science pairing to start a look for understanding of how they can relate and how the pairing restricts and shapes each of them. That set of ideas aside, I like the general intuition behind that idea - it could be said more succinctly "go to University", but that would be a bit more blatantly obnoxious :)

I am quite mystified at looseleaf tea that remains good after 5 infusions.

Also, now would be a great time to fall asleep. Hopefully soon.

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